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Study: ‘Harsh Verbal Discipline’ May Be As Harmful To Teenager’s Well-being As Physical Punishment

By Chelsea Karnash

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (CBS) – You might want to think twice the next time you’re ready to scream at your defiant teen.

New research out of the University of Pittsburgh reveals that “harsh verbal discipline” – or yelling, cursing or using insults – may be just as bad for the well-being of a teenager as physical punishment.

The study, which was led by Ming-Te Wang, an assistant professor of psychology in education at Pitt, was published in the most recent issue of the journal Child Development and looked at more than 967 mostly middle class, middle school adolescents and their parents in Pennsylvania.

According to the university’s website, Wang and co-author Sarah Kenny found that adolescents who had experienced harsh verbal discipline had increased levels of depressive symptoms and were more likely to demonstrate behavioral problems like aggression or vandalism.

Additionally, the study found that the effects of harsh verbal discipline over the course of two years were similar to those shown in studies that looked at physical discipline, and that the use of shouting or cursing actually pushed teens to continue their bad behavior rather than to curb it.

And the strength of the parent-child bond didn’t lessen the negative effects of the discipline. In other words, those parents who were yelling “out of love” or “for their children’s own good” were still doing harm to their teen’s well-being, despite their good intentions.

According to Wang, parents with unruly teens would be better off communicating with those teens on an equal level about their concerns and rationale.

Harsh Verbal Discipline Study

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